Why It Works
- Butter in the batter adds extra flavor and helps crisp the edges more.
- Optional kirsch (cherry brandy) enhances the fruit flavor.
- Balanced amounts of egg and sugar in the batter produce a clafoutis that's just sweet enough with a light texture that's not too eggy.
You know what's satisfying? Successfully cooking a dish so complicated that you achieve legendary status in the minds of your dinner guests. Know what's even more satisfying? Getting that same level of recognition for a dish that's ridiculously easy. With a cherry clafoutis, that's exactly what'll happen.
Whether it's the fancy French name or its undeniable beauty fresh from the oven, a clafoutis is a dessert that's guaranteed to impress and please. Its simplicity can't be overstated: Pour a simple batter made from egg, milk, sugar, and flour over cherries, bake, and serve. Think of it as a cross between a Dutch baby or popover and flan with fruit embedded in it.
Traditionally, clafoutis is made with cherries, though you can substitute other tender fruits like apricots, plums, figs, or berries. Years ago, when I worked on a farm in Burgundy, France, we'd make them all the time with plums, though Wikipedia tells me that if made with anything other than cherries, the dish should be called a flaugnarde. No one on the farm I was on knew this, but then again we were in Burgundy, not Limousin, the home region of clafoutis, so maybe they were just less informed on the proper nomenclature of baked fruit-pancake desserts.
For my recipe, I wanted to examine a few variables with the batter and fruit.
In the case of the batter, I noticed some variations in many recipes on the egg and sugar quantities relative to the milk and flour, which tend to stay more consistent. I whipped up a few sample batters with varying levels of egg (one, two, and three eggs per cup of milk and half cup of flour) and sugar (two, three, and four tablespoons of sugar per that same cup of milk and half cup of flour).
I baked them all side-by-side in a greased muffin tin in a 350°F (180°C) oven. What I found was that, as the egg went up, the batter rose more and more, which makes sense since air bubbles within the eggs expand when heated (an effect that's even more exaggerated in the case of soufflé thanks to even airier beaten egg whites). Clafoutis, though, isn't meant to be a risen dessert like soufflé, and in fact it deflates almost instantly when removed from the oven, so getting maximum rise isn't critical. More important is texture and flavor. My preference was for two eggs per cup of milk and half cup of flour, which was just eggy enough without tasting like a full-on baked custard.
I had a similar feeling about the sugar: The middle option, three tablespoons per cup of milk and half cup of flour was just sweet enough. That said, the differences in both egg and sugar quantity were subtle enough that you should feel free to adjust to your own taste. Want it sweeter, especially if you're using tart fruit like raspberries? Add another tablespoon of sugar. Prefer the clafoutis more custardy? Crack another egg into the batter. You won't hurt it.
I also tested batters with half-and-half instead of milk, but didn't find enough of a difference to warrant buying half-and-half, especially with melted butter added. (As Betty Botter knows, batter with butter—preferably better butter, not bitter butter—is better.) The butter helped create crisper edges than the versions without.
For my fruit test, the main thing I wanted to find out was whether it was worth keeping the cherries whole or not.
A lot of recipes call for whole pit-in cherries, since it's said the pits add a slight bitter-almond flavor to the dessert. I made mini-clafoutis with both pitted and whole cherries to decide for myself.
In my small versions, I didn't taste a noticeable difference between the two, though it's entirely possible a larger clafoutis with many more whole cherries would take on that bitter almond aroma. Still, I ended up opting for pitted cherries, since the ease of eating a slice of this without having to keep spitting out little stones was worth more to me than any small flavor gain. It's even more true since I'm adding vanilla and giving the option of adding some kirsch (cherry brandy) too, which really amps up the flavor of the dessert. By the way, this recipe uses sweet cherries, not sour ones.
To make the clafoutis itself, start by putting your fruit in a baking vessel. It can be a pie plate, a tart pan, a baking dish, or even a cast iron skillet like I'm using here. Then pour the batter on top.
It goes in the oven until puffed and browned; a knife or cake tester inserted into the center should come out clean. That takes a little less than an hour at 350°F usually.
Let the clafoutis cool slightly, then serve it sprinkled with powdered sugar. Some whipped cream on top is not required, but sure is nice. One extra tip: If you want to impress your guests even more, beat the cream by hand with a whisk. I can't tell you how many times people have flipped out when they've seen me do it, which is just hilarious because it takes absolutely no skill at all.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/2 ounces or 75g)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar (about 1 1/4 ounces or 40g)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
1 tablespoon kirsch (optional)
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (see notes)
3/4 pound sweet cherries, pitted (see notes)
Powdered sugar, for serving
Whipped cream, for serving (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, and salt. Whisk in milk, eggs, butter, kirsch (if using), and vanilla extract or seeds until a smooth batter forms.
Grease a baking dish, tart pan, or cast iron skillet (about 9 inches in diameter) with butter. Scatter cherries all over bottom. Pour batter on top and bake until clafoutis is puffed and browned and a knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cool slightly, then slice and serve, sprinkling powdered sugar on top. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.
Pie plate, cast iron skillet, or tart pan (about 9 inches in diameter).
If using a vanilla bean, reserve the scraped bean for another use (you can stick it in a container of sugar to create vanilla sugar, for instance).
We like pitted cherries because the clafoutis is easier to eat that way, but feel free to leave the cherries whole if you prefer; that's a more traditional way to do it, and some people like the subtle bitter almond flavor the pits add to the dessert.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 9g||11%|
|Saturated Fat 5g||25%|
|Total Carbohydrate 29g||10%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||5%|
|Total Sugars 17g|
|Vitamin C 4mg||20%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|